Special Olympics athlete receives hearing aid at USA Games

Published: Aug. 3, 2022 at 4:43 AM CDT
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - If you attend a Special Olympics softball game... You’re sure to see Branden Thibodeau on the field.

Branden started participating with Special Olympics at 18 years old and found a second family within his softball team.

“It’s actually really fun. I enjoy it. We get to hang out and joke around with each other and we get to meet other people who are just like us,” said Thibodeau.

But imagine playing softball and not being able to hear much. Well, you’ve put yourself in Branden’s shoes. He’s partially deaf in his left ear, which means once he leaves the dugout, there’s another challenge awaiting him on the field.

“It’s kind of hard to hear your coach yelling for you to tell you to shift or where you need to go,” said Thibodeau.

Despite this challenge, Branden was selected to represent Wyoming at the USA Games.

“We have people from different countries come in, and we got to meet and hang out and then compete against each other,” said Thibodeau when describing his favorite moments of the games.

It’s estimated that over 30,000 Special Olympics athletes have some form of hearing loss. About 83 percent of those athletes never have the proper testing, and Starkey Cares wanted to change that.

“When we hear those numbers and know there’s such a need in the Special Olympics community, it was obvious to us that it was a group we wanted to partner with and we want to help anyway we can,” said Michael Scholl, the EVP of Corporate Relations for Starkey Cares.

And after a series of hearing tests, Branden was one of the first athlete at the u-s-a games to receive a hearing aid free of charge from Starkey.

“He was such a great young man to have a conversation with. He was so excited to be there and so excited about his participation,” said Scholl.

This hearing aid not only changed the game, it changed Branden’s life.

“It was very emotional. I loved it. I enjoyed it. Being able to hear is the best thing you can have in life, especially playing on the field being able to hear better. I can hear my teammates, and I can hear the ball hit off the bat too so you know where it’s going to land at,” said Thibodeau.

And now, Branden is determined to give back to the organization that gave him a new hope.

“I want everyone else to see where I came from and how I’ve been doing it and that Special O can help you,” said Thibodeau.

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